Monday, November 23, 2015

NaNoWriMo - Chapter Fifteen

Sorry for the skip in the days. It is embarrassing to have to say that I'm like the proverbial character with a heart problem and have to balance things so I don't get overwhelmed and stressed or my heart acts up!

Chapter Fifteen
Lunch is Easier Than You Think

With a good breakfast under your belt you should be able to last until lunch time. If not, that is okay. We will look at snacks in the next chapter. But try really hard to not eat between meals.

Remember in Chapter Eleven I talked about how in Korea and other Asian countries there are not specific foods associated with specific meals? Lunch can be like that for us. We can eat anything we want to eat. Let’s look at some of the options.

We can eat leftovers from the night before (or breakfast for that matter). We can have a sandwich, a salad, soup, or “lunchables”. The sandwich can be on sliced bread, a roll, a pita pocket, or leftover pancakes (don’t laugh until you try peanut butter and jam on whole wheat pancakes, it’s yummy!). The sandwich can be hot or cold. A salad is defined as “a dish, usually served cold, consisting of vegetables, as lettuce, tomatoes, etc., or of fruit, meat, seafood, or eggs, mixed with a dressing.” Salads are versatile and can be made up of whatever you have on hand in all sorts of unique and yes, weird combinations (remember Breakfast Salad?). Soup is similar, usually served hot, and like salads, it can be made to a recipe or can be a unique combination, or even an experiment. Lunchables at our house are similar to the store bought things of the same name except we have fruit or veggies in place of cookies or candy, but it is still simply crackers, cheese and/or meat.

See there are lots of options. If you are like me and have different tastes than your spouse, and you are at home for lunch you can make precisely what you want to eat with no one around to complain. When our children are home with me they often ask for macaroni and cheese, or as we used to call it Pasta y Queso, because Dad hates the stuff and we rarely serve it when he is around.

Here is my famous (in my family at least) Macaroni and Cheese Recipe.
One Pan Macaroni and Cheese

Gather all necessary ingredients.
Get out the square electric frying pan.  Turn on to 250°.

Ingredients Needed:

1 -2 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon black pepper
⅛ teaspoon ground oregano

2 to 3 cups pasta (elbows or tiny shells)
1 tablespoon flour
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
1 – 2 cups grated cheddar cheese

1.  Put into pan 1 – 2 tablespoons of butter
    ½ teaspoon salt
    ½ teaspoon dry mustard
    ½  teaspoon black pepper
    ⅛ teaspoon ground oregano

2.  Add 2 - 3 cups elbow macaroni, or 2 ½ cups mini shell macaroni.
3.  Stir to cover all the pasta with the butter and spices.
4.  Add three cups water (if you use 3 cups pasta add four cups water), stir to wet everything.  Smooth it out and cover tightly
5.  Cook until the water is almost all absorbed.  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
6.  When the water is almost all absorbed sprinkle 1 tablespoon of flour over the pasta and stir it in.
7.  Add one 12 ounce can of evaporated milk, stir thoroughly, then top with 1 – 2 cups grated cheddar cheese.  As the cheese begins to melt, stir mixture continuously until it thickens.  When it is thickened turn off the fry pan and cover again until ready to serve.

The instructions are detailed because I wrote it up for children. Our son attempted to make it once by dumping all the ingredients in together. It didn’t work exactly right, but I managed to salvage it. Hence the explicit instructions.

Sandwiches can be any combination you desire. For a meat/cheese combo try to add three or four vegetables too. Lettuce, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, pickles, carrot curls (use a veggie peeler to shave off nice slices of carrot, the big kind, not those silly baby things), radishes, fresh spinach leaves, sprouts, whatever you have in your crisper. Go for more veggies than meat and cheese. Your hips will thank you. And if you do use carrot curls, cut up the rest of the carrot into sticks and eat those instead of chips (potato or corn).

Want to know how to stretch a can of tuna to make eight sandwiches? Chop up vegetables, carrot, celery, peppers, onion, broccoli, and such, as fine as you can. Add the veggies to the tuna and plop in a little bit of mayonnaise (or whatever your favorite white dressing is). The more veggies you add, the further the tuna stretches. This is wonderful in pita pockets.

Avoid chips, potato, tortilla, corn, or veggie, especially if you are eating alone. Trust me on this one. Chips are way fattening with little nutritional value. And it is so easy to overeat on these. Just ask my hips. We can get our crunch from crisp vegetables or a little bit of air-popped popcorn. Or we can wean ourselves off cold turkey, which is hard to do, but who said losing weight and getting healthy was easy?

Fruits are higher in calories, generally, than vegetables so they are a good, sweet ending to the meal. Think of them as a little dessert, perhaps.

Now just a word about vegetables from a non-botanist. For the purpose of losing weight, corn is not a vegetable. Neither are green peas. Corn is a grain, what used to be called a starch, sort of like potatoes; and peas are a legume, like beans, a vegetable protein. The veggies I am talking about adding to your meals are the ones like romaine lettuce, spinach, celery, broccoli, carrots, bell peppers (red, orange, yellow and green), cucumbers, radishes, and such. The ones we listed in the rainbow. Yes, corn and peas are in there, let’s not be picky. There is a place for all the wonderful veggies in our meal plan, just remember balance. Potatoes and corn are both starchy so we need some green stuff to balance it.

When I think or say lettuce I am talking about Romaine or other dark green leafy lettuce, not the pale green tasteless iceberg junk. Yuck! No offense intended if that is your favorite, but just be aware that iceberg lettuce is water and fiber, nothing else. No vitamins, minerals or taste. Try some hearty Romaine or fresh spinach, or a package of baby spring greens. Yummy!

On to soups. The sky is the limit, sort of. Cream soups are not recommended except on special occasions and in small quantities. Stock soups heavy on the vegetables are going to be our best friends.

Here is my own recipe:

Basic Soup

2 carrots, sliced
1 stalk celery diced
1/3 – ½ of a large onion chopped
Meat – leftover roasted beef, chicken or turkey
2 bouillon cubes or teaspoons of granules or paste (flavor to match or complement meat)
½ cup pearled barley or 1 cup uncooked elbow macaroni

2 - 2½ quarts water

Put all the ingredients in a large pot, bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for about an hour.  Taste and add seasoning, about 1 tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. pepper.

This recipe is a good way to use up last night’s dinner meat.

Get in the habit of looking at what you are making and determining if you can cut some of the calories down without sacrificing flavor or texture. For example: do you butter your sandwich bread for a peanut butter sandwich? Why? One kind of butter is enough and you will decrease the calories in your sandwich. Do you always use mayonnaise on meat and cheese sandwiches? Try using less, or switch to mustard which is flavorful and tons less calories. Read the labels of your lunch meat and see what an actual serving size is, then reduce it by a third or half. Having protein for lunch is important to enable you to last through to supper. Another strategy is to make just half a sandwich using one slice of bread. Fill up on vegetables and other low calorie high nutrition foods.

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